Radon Gas: Another Silent Killer

Radon gas is a radioactive gas that results from the natural decay of uranium. Like carbon monoxide, it is also a silent killer because it is completely invisible and odorless when it infiltrates the home. Its adverse side effects often remain undetected until it is too late to reverse the damage.

  • Although radon is a common gas found in the atmosphere, it is harmless in the outdoors because it is filtered and diffused. However, when it becomes trapped inside your house, it can be very harmful and potentially fatal to the home’s inhabitants, even more so than the greatly-feared carbon monoxide.

What are the dangers of radon gas?

The dangers of the gas are few but deadly. Although the short-term effects of radon exposure are virtually non-existent, the long-term effects can be fatal. Some people have reported headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and other symptoms similar to those of carbon monoxide exposure; however, there is no proof that radon is the cause of such symptoms. On the other hand, the prolonged effects of radon exposure have been made clear.

Here are some facts:

  • According to studies, exposure to the noxious gas causes approximately 21,000 deaths from lung cancer every year in America; radon ranks as the second most common cause of this type of cancer.
  • Although smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, those who smoke are at a higher risk of lung cancer when exposed to radon than nonsmokers; so it is a double whammy for tobacco-users.
  • According to a recent announcement from the EPA, radon causes one hundred times more deaths than carbon monoxide, though this fact remains relatively unknown by the general public.

The best way to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of radon gas is to inform yourself on how it can enter your house, how to determine if your home is contaminated, and what to do if you discover dangerous levels in your house.

How does radon gas get into a home?

Radon usually seeps into the foundation of a structure from underground. When high levels of the gas are detected in a home, it is usually because the house was built on radon-contaminated soil. The gas in the soil seeps up through cracks in the basement, sump pumps, air conditioning units, water wells, and/or various other gateways into the house. However, note that a house can still be contaminated even if it does not have a basement.

How can radon gas be detected?

The only way to know for sure whether your home has been compromised is to subject your house to a radon test. This is a relatively simple and inexpensive process, guaranteed to give you accurate information regarding the atmosphere and condition in your home.

Since approximately one out of fifteen homes in the U.S is contaminated with dangerously high levels of the radioactive gas, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all Americans have a radon test conducted. The good news is that test kits are readily available from drug stores, super stores, and hardware stores across the nation, and usually cost less than $30. This is a relatively small price to pay for the reassurance and peace of mind that a radon test can provide.

How can radon systems be controlled?

If the test reveals that there are in fact dangerous levels of radon in your home, it does not mean that you must immediately evacuate. There are things you can do to control the levels of radon and thus minimize the risks of harmful effects resulting from exposure to the gas.

  • A radon mitigation system can suck the radon into the attic and out of the house, through a vent in the roof. Plastic may be placed over the contaminated soil to prevent further seepage into the house. Sealing cracks, holes, and other crevices in the foundation can minimize the possibility of gas penetration.
  • Be aware though that controlling a radon-contaminated home is not a do-it-yourself job. You need to contact a professional who is experienced in this field, and who is certified by the EPA. You can contact your local EPA office to find a certified professional in your area. After the radon-reduction job is completed, you may need to continue testing your home on a regular basis in order to ensure that radon is kept at a safe level.